Snow-Melting Road Salt Wrecks Havoc on the Environment, Infrastructure

by , 02/27/14

road salt, rock salt, salt, snow, ice, melt, winter, environment, infrastructure, roads, bridges, sidewalksRoad salt photo from Shutterstock

It’s been a particularly harsh winter for the Eastern United States, and many local governments have exhausted their stockpiles of salt used to melt ice on roads and sidewalks. Salt makes streets safer to navigate when conditions are treacherous, however there are big drawbacks when it comes to infrastructure and the environment. According to a report on Treehugger, salt adversely impacts wildlife, plants, water and soil when it inevitably finds its way into the groundwater, rivers and streams. Road salt can also contain chemicals like sodium ferrocyanide and ferric ferrocyanide, it’s corrosive, and it speeds up the deterioration of infrastructure – every dollar spent on salt costs an estimated four dollars in repairs to roads and bridges.

road salt, rock salt, salt, snow, ice, melt, winter, environment, infrastructure, roads, bridges, sidewalksPhoto from Shutterstock

There are alternatives to salt that could protect the environment from toxic runoff and prevent premature deterioration of essential infrastructure. Some of these alternatives include reducing the speed limit during winter, mandating snow tires and investing in more robust public transportation systems to provide easy alternatives to driving.

Related: Wisconsin Uses Cheesy Water to De-Ice Wintery Roads

If pouring salt on roads, bridges and walkways is a must, there are eco-friendly alternatives for melting snow and ice. Green de-icing materials include urea, alfalfa meal, sugar beet juice, sand, coffee grinds, cheese brine and garlic salt.


Lead image via John P. Sullivan

Related: Self-Heating Radiator Roads Save Cars From Icy Conditions

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1 Comment

  1. Morton Satin February 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I\\\’m not certain the writer has any experience with this issue since there are a number of errors and misperceptions in his article. First of all the ferrocyanide anti-caking agents in road salt are FDA approved for food use and are not toxic despite their scary names. If there was a useful alternative to salt it would be used frequently, but there is not. Can you imagine the clean-up costs for cheese whey, urea, alfalfa meal, sugar beet juice, sand, coffee grinds, and garlic salt? Garlic salt? The only component in garlic salt that melts snow is the salt (sodium chloride) that the garlic oil is sprayed on!! By law, cheese way is not allowed to be dumped because it pollutes streams with higher BOD as does urea, and sugar beet juice. Sand has been found to double spring clean up costs and silts up waterways. Salt is the most cost effective winter maintenance material there is and save the states hundreds of billions of dollars each year by keeping roads safe and cars mobile. Without it we could not survive at the same level of economic activity. Get the facts straight, please.

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